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The Joys of Virtual Cookies

Choices from Our Virtual Cookie Exchange

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Are you ready for some baking? The holiday season brings it out in any foodie – that desire to get in the kitchen and stir things up. While our chefs have been busy creating some great holiday menus, we know that you are all ramping up for the feasting, too. What better way to share than through a cookie exchange?

For those who have never done one, the traditional cookie exchange is when a group of friends get together for a day and bake batch after batch of their favorite cookies. Then, each person bags up a dozen or two of each and takes them home. In a single day you can get great variety and have fun while you are doing it. Others prefer to bake individually, then bring bags of a dozen each to an exchange.

In a Virtual Cookie Exchange, it’s a simple sharing of a recipe, which anyone can then make at home. You get the benefit of discovering a new cookie, and gain the social networking by commenting on each others’ blog or in a Food Channel story.

Cookies are big business, by the way. According to the Christmas Holiday Profile Report, by The NPD Group, 52 percent of consumers who report giving gifts at Christmas, give food – and about half of it is in the form of cookies. And, cookies are the number one snack food traditionally eaten at Christmas, with 65 percent of respondents saying they eat cookies.

  • The report finds that half of the food given as Christmas gifts is candy, mostly chocolate candy.
  • Cookies are the second most popular Christmas gift, with 42 percent giving cookies.
  • An assortment of other foods, meat, breads, fruits, jams, seafood, etc. are given by 23 percent of the respondents. (One interesting note is that 11 percent of the respondents admit to eating fruit cake!)

So, for the 42 percent of you who are eating cookies, here are the cookie ideas we chose. We recommend you do like we did, and try these out in your kitchens this year.

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Polish Kolaczki, was made by Barbara. She says, “There is some debate as to who invented kolaczki (plural for kolaczek). Poles claim it but so do Croatians, Czechs and others. Kolaczki can be round, square or diamond shaped, and the dough can be flaky or yeast-risen, and the spelling varies widely.

“My family always preferred the flaky kind made with a cream cheese dough, and apricot, raspberry, prune and sweet cheese were our fillings of choice. Nowadays, anything goes — almond, poppyseed, strawberry, blueberry, even pineapple.” And, she adds, “This is a great kid’s project.”

Cranberry Gingerbread Gems were a favorite, submitted by Jennifer and tested in our kitchens. She writes, “On my Mothers side of the family, there is a tradition of the Holiday Baking day. I remember as a kid, all of us gathering together in our kitchen – grandma, aunts, all the cousins, my sister and brother and friends, to bake pies and make toffee and craft cookies. My mother had a huge stack of favorite recipes and baking pamphlets gathered over the years which she would xerox and hand to everyone to figure out what we wanted to make.”

She adds, “These Cranberry Gingerbread Gems are a Baking Day favorite of mine, and one which I always associate with this time of year. In the past few years I’ve adapted the cookie to be smaller, crisp, and even more addictive – I usually put ten or so in a small cellophane bag with a ribbon to give to co-workers.” (Editor’s note: We loved these cookies with a cup of coffee – really a nice change from the usual).

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More of our favorite cookie recipes were from a “12 Days of Christmas” challenge done virtually among friends. Sandy, of Bakersbench tells us, “This 12 Days of Cookies blogging event has been a pretty wild ride! Twelve different batches of cookies in 12 days ~ in addition to all the other cooking and baking that has to get done! But it’s been fun and instructive. Besides, when else do you have an excuse to eat cookies at breakfast (and lunch and dinner) for nearly 2 weeks straight?” Our favorite was the
Brown Butter Cookies.

Right up there with them were the Lemon Thins. Judy said she chose them because, “they looked so nice and light right after Thanksgiving. Turns out that they were absolutely incredible and would be good anytime of the year, and Christmas is no exception!”

Other recipes from the participants in that fun exercise include the following. Special thanks goes to Judy of Nofearentertaining and Courtney of Cococooks:

Cranberry Turtle Bars

Ginger Sugar Cookies

Coconut Bars

Maide Heatter’s Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate Wafers

Jelly Centers

Navettes Sucrées

Benne Wafers

Mocha Toffee Bars

Viennese Vanilla Crescents

And, our own editor’s couldn’t resist making a few favorites to share:

Chewy Noels

Chocolate Mint Bars

Grandma Nehmer’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Sugar Cookies

We offer all of these tested recommendations to help bring a little variety to your baking and have your family go, “Wow, where did you get that recipe!”